Haaretz: Panetta Arrives In Israel For ‘Urgent Consultations’ On Iran – OpEd


I have been writing for more than two years about the possibility of an Israeli war against Iran (make no mistake, an Israeli attack on Iran will notbe just a single discrete operation, but involve an ongoing, and regional war).  And I’ve never felt closer to the idea it was going to happen.  If it does, all of the political developments that led up to it should be fodder for an international studies colloquim on national conflicts, how they start, how to avoid them, and how needless and futile they are.

Today, Haaretz blares a headline (Hebrew print edition only) for a story by Amos Harel:

Second Meeting in Two Weeks:
U.S. Defense Secretary Arrives for Urgent Consultation on Iran

This is no ordinary meeting.  As Harel’s story notes, it’s the second meeting between Panetta and Barak in two weeks.  His first was in Washington DC, during which he also met with the new CIA director, David Petraeus.  Tomorrow’s meeting threatens to be a make or break one, during which Israel will argue for an attack and Panetta will (hopefully) attempt to dissuade them:

Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are believed to favor an Israeli strike on Iran, while the Obama administration has gone out of its way to voice its objection to such a move. Panetta’s predecessor at the Defense Department, Robert Gates, has repeatedly reiterated his objection to an Israeli strike, claiming that such a move would have severe consequences.

Admiral Michael Mullen, who last month stepped down from his role as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, has passed numerous messages to Netanyahu, clarifying that Israel does not have a “green light” to attack Iran.

Lately the administration has refrained from direct remarks about a possible Israeli strike.

Gee, why do you think that is?  Because Obama, with falling popularity ratings especially within the Jewish community, doesn’t feel strong enough to step in front of this oncoming train (wreck).  And possibly because he doesn’t oppose it nearly as strongly as he should.  Obama’s seen his poll numbers rise with his lethal approach to alleged anti-American terrorists.  Part of him at the least, must believe that unleashing Israel on the Iranians can’t hurt him with security-hawk voters.  Of course, Obama forgets or doesn’t care about the impact it will have on his progressive-liberal base.  He either takes them for granted, believes they have nowhere else to go, or thinks they’re insignificant.

I’ve been reporting here on numerous Israeli media sources who’ve noted the increasing apocalyptical rhetoric from both Ehud Barak and Bibi Netanyahu concerning the Iranian threat to Israel.  Never have a I read so many Israeli commentators reporting virtually the same portraits of leaders ready for war, and at the same time.  It’s ominous, I tell you.

Yaakov Katz, who is a veteran hawkish military correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, also reports today:

One of the last times Leon Panetta came to Israel was to stop the country from attacking Iran.  It was May 2009 and the then-CIA chief was reportedly sent to Israel to ensure the new government in Jerusalem was not planning unilateral action against the Islamic Republic.

…On Monday, Panetta will again arrive in Israel, although this time as secretary of defense…When he sits down for talks with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Iran will again feature prominently on the agenda.  What he will find, though, might not be to his liking.

According to some estimations, the chances of an Israeli strike against Iran might be growing…Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s recent warning that with him, former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi and former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin no longer in office there is no one left capable of standing up to Barak and Netanyahu if they should decide to take action.

…Panetta will likely use this visit to try and [sic] ease Israeli concerns and tensions…He will also look for assurances that Israel will not surprise America.

Katz claims that Israel hasn’t yet given up on the efficacy of sanctions.  But U.S. defense secretaries don’t meet their Israeli counterparts twice in two weeks and fly half way around the world in order to discuss sanctions.  I smell war in the air.  God, I hope I’m wrong.  So many will die if I’m not, and needlessly so.

This article appeared at Tikun Olam

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

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